Find out what’s behind the facade

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) is beginning an explosive new season guaranteed to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. To open the season, SCP is presenting an innovative production of Jekyll & Hyde. With music by Frank Wildhorn; lyrics by Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse, and Steve Cuden; and book by Bricusse. The show is a musical horror-drama that’s loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story entitled The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The show made it to Broadway in 1997 following its world premiere in Houston, Texas and a national tune-up tour. The show enjoyed several subsequent tours, and a Broadway revival in 2013. Since its Broadway debut, the story has remained consistent, but the music has evolved with various songs being altered or replaced in the revival and subsequent tours.

The story follows Dr. Henry Jekyll, a London physician intent on finding a way to control the beast within everyone. He’s motivated by a personal tragedy, his father’s descent into madness. After being rebuffed by the authorities when he asks for permission to test his formula on a human subject, he continues his work using himself as his test subject, and the rest as they say is history. He effectively splits in two with Edward Hyde emerging to wreak havoc on the streets of London, and over time, Jekyll becomes unable to contain the Hyde within him. Of course there’s more to it than that. There’s the love story, there’s the friendship being tested, and there’s the schism between rich and poor throughout the city. There’s also a lot of mayhem. It’s a dark, yet thought-provoking story.

Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov directs this production and also serves as vocal director. She’s working very closely with choreographer Francesca Cipponeri, fight choreographer Gary Ferguson, and musical director Benjamin Belew to bring this production to Sunnyvale’s stage. This collaboration is very different from the last time SCP did the show over a decade ago, even beyond the differences due to the material being based on the 2013 revival. Marchetti-Kozlov’s strong cast is up to the challenges this script presents. It’s an extremely physical show. It’s also very vocally demanding, and the vocal blend is exquisite. The show as written has some slow moments, but not in this production. Marchetti-Kozlov’s vision is to keep the story moving forward rather briskly leaving no dead time. Set changes are executed through active scenes eliminating the nominal breaks in the script. There is one intermission for audiences, actors, and musicians alike to catch their breath.

Although the action is intense for the entire Jekyll & Hyde cast, the title role is especially so given the actor must transform from an impassioned doctor to a deadly, raving madman, at times with his disparate selves confronting one another. James Schott plays Jekyll/Hyde for the majority of the run, and Chloe Angst is scheduled to assume the role for one performance each weekend, nominally on Friday nights. Both Schott and Angst have mastered the role, each being intensely studious as Dr. Jekyll and terrifying as Mr. Hyde. They each provide their own unique interpretive touches to their characterizations and also approach their vocals a little differently, particularly as Mr. Hyde.

Benjamin Belew is fully engaged in this production serving as musical director, rehearsal pianist, and set designer. Belew is excited about being able to let his creative juices flow in so many directions. Beyond being an accomplished pianist, Belew is also a composer, and an artist (cartoonist/sculptor), and his set is very imaginative – watch for the magic mirror. On the musical side, the current available orchestration is scored for a 17-piece ensemble including bass, cello, horn, three keyboards, two percussionists, four reeds, trombone, trumpet, viola, and two violins. Belew has taken the score and revised his orchestration for an 8-piece ensemble including two keyboards, two orchestral strings, two rock strings, one woodwind, and a single percussionist. He’s moved the brass lines to electric guitar, and instead of the original classically-tinged rock score, he’s reimagined the musical style as more of a heavy metal, symphonic fusion. All of the music is there, it’s just more explosive, and where it fits, also very dynamic with some instrumental improvisation.

The instrumentalists include:

  • Keyboard 1/Conductor: Benjamin Belew;
  • Keyboard 2: Shannon Wang;
  • Bass (1 per performance): David Lake, George Alfs;
  • Electric Guitar: Michael Firefly Perry;
  • Percussion: Peter Wallack;
  • Violin: Marian Lin;
  • Cello (1 per performance): Satoru Tagawa, Madeleine Graham, Matthew Mattei (on keyboard);
  • Woodwinds (flute/piccolo/alto flute – 1 per performance): Doreen Oroshnik, Asa Stern.

The artistic staff includes:

  • Director/Vocal Director: Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov;
  • Music Director/Set Designer: Benjamin Belew;
  • Choreographer: Francesca Cipponeri;
  • Fight Choreographer: Gary Ferguson;
  • Stage Manager: Dana Cooper;
  • Production Manager: Charlotte Tani.

For the full staff list, see: Jekyll & Hyde staff.

Tickets are available online through the Sunnyvale Community Players website (use the code FACADE for a discount on your purchase) or by phone at 408-733-6611. Again, the show runs Thursdays – Sundays, 14 September through 6 October 2019.

Performances are at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre located at: 550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale CA 94087.

Please join Sunnyvale Community Players for this production. You will be glad you did. Due to the intense content, this show is not suitable for very young children.


References:
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Enriched Classics)
Jekyll & Hyde – The Musical (1997 Original Broadway Cast)

(Photos courtesy of Sunnyvale Community Players)


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